ASIAN 252 - Undergraduate Seminar in Japanese Culture
Section: 001 The Japanese Woman in Literature
Term: WN 2009
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
Requirements & Distribution:
FYSem, WorldLit
Advisory Prerequisites:
No knowledge of Japanese language is required.
May be elected twice for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course is a survey of over 1000 years of Japanese and Western great books about Japanese women. The course offers an introduction to important issues for discussing literature such as gender and sex, class and labor, ethnicity and race, Orientalism, counter-Orientalism and Occidentalism.

“The Japanese Woman in Literature” begins 1000 years ago with some of the world’s best and most enduring literature, "The Pillow Book" by Sei Shonagon and "The Tale of Genji" by Murasaki Shikibu. Like most of the great works of the Japanese classical period, these works were written by women in the imperial court. In 1911, the publication of Hiratsuka Raicho’s feminist journal, "The Bluestockings", was an attempt to once again create a forum for talented women writers. In a poem in the inaugural edition, Raicho wrote:

Originally, woman was the sun.
She was an authentic person.
But now woman is the moon.
She lives by depending on another
And she shines by reflecting
Another’s light.
Her face has a sickly pallor.

("Seito", 1911)

Raicho’s poem reminds us that it was a Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, who was responsible for founding Japan in ancient Japanese mytho-religious discourse; at the same time, the poem alludes to the golden era of great women writers 1000 years ago. In this course, we will travel the socio-historical distance from the women of classical court literature to poet-feminist Raicho who found herself in a man’s literary world and beyond!

Her contributions as an author notwithstanding, the Japanese woman is also a favorite site of fantasy and anxiety in Japan and abroad, for women and for men, as an object of desire and as a desiring subject. From the famously demure Madame Chrysanthème of Pierre Loti’s late 20th century novel to the sassy Modern Girl of the roaring 20s to contemporary busty battlin’ babes (and let’s not forget "Memoirs of a Geisha"), the Japanese Woman has been available as a site of cultural imagination and inspiration, and those images often tell us less about real Japanese women than they do about the dreams and nightmares of those doing the imagining.

ASIAN 252 - Undergraduate Seminar in Japanese Culture
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
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